Director: John Krish
Screenplay: Rex Carlton
Starring: John Neville, Philip Stone, Gabriella Licudi, Warren Mitchell, Patrick Newell
Running Time: 80 mins
BBFC Classification: PG
When Dr Munro (Warren Mitchell), who leads a team of British scientists working on a highly classified project looking into the projection of material objects through time and space, is found dead under somewhat mysterious circumstances, Mark Davidson (John Neville) is put in charge of the project. Meanwhile his boss, Professor John Lancaster (Philip Stone), is concerned about staff safety, especially when the rather overbearing Major Clarke (Patrick Newell), the security officer in charge of the ensuing investigation, reveals that the American and Russian scientists who were engaged in similar projects have also died recently, in weird ways.
Davidson overhears this bizarre conversation between the major and the professor and visits the path lab where Dr Munro’s body resides; however, when he looks in the coffin he finds it full of bricks and cardboard, which makes him suspect a cover-up is taking place. On top of this, Mark’s new bride, Julie (Gabriella Licudi), is acting strangely; for example, he notices that she never seems to blink! When he invites his boss around for diner to check her out, John stumbles onto his hostess taking a baking tray out of a very hot oven without using any oven gloves, seemingly oblivious to any pain.
When Munro’s scientific notes go missing, and others start winding up dead, Mark begins to fear for his own life, and even more so when evidence starts to point toward his wife potentially being involved in these strange occurrences. And we the audience begin to agree with his unease regarding his wife when we see her in an unblinking trance while ‘resting’ in their bedroom, and also when a classroom worth of kids, in a playground, all back away from her en mass when she approaches them – I know that feeling well!
As various unsettling events unfold our two main characters soon realise that the mastermind behind the attacks on their research, and other projects like it, might actually originate from another world, and not Earth as they, quite naturally, originally assumed.
I have to say that Unearthly Stranger is an under-rated science fiction gem and it’s a great shame that it’s been languishing in relative obscurity all these years. Starting life as a spec script by actor Jeffrey Stone (TV’s ‘The Three Musketeers’), it was sold to Independent Artists for $10,000, who then engaged BAFTA-nominated documentary filmmaker John Krish to direct it, as he was keen to break into features at that time.
With elements of films like ‘I married a Monster from Outer Space’ and ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and often conveying an other-worldly Lovecraftian vibe, Unearthly Stranger is a nice mix of intriguing sci-fi and cerebral horror.
Nicely shot and paced, Krish creates an unsettling feature, aided by a suitable score by Edward Williams, which at times reminded me a little of the score for Hitchcock’s ‘North by Northwest’. The acting is also top-notch, with the entire principal cast making an impact, especially the gorgeous Gabriella Licudi whose Moroccan background lends her a distinct look when compared to her mainly British co-stars.
There are a couple of minor issues with the film – some of the dialogue doesn’t really ring true and there are a couple of continuity problems, for example, there are two different doors used for the front entrance to the same house in a couple of scenes!
All things considered Unearthly Stranger has aged pretty well and I think today’s more sophisticated audiences will still enjoy its peculiar charms.
Network Distributing has done a great job with this film – the picture and sound quality are both excellent, and I think it’s great that they’ve brought this film to our attention once again.
Unearthly Stranger has recently been released on DVD and Blu-ray and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles, many of which are pretty decent.
Extras consist of an ‘A’- rated trailer and a sizable gallery of six posters and 14 lobby cards and photos from the film.